The IDF insisted in November 2014 that the driver of a Palestinian Arab commercial vehicle who attempted to run over the soldiers as they were on duty near a guard stand outside of Kafr Al-Arub was "not a terrorist."
But on Sunday, a senior command official involved in the case broke a months-long silence over the declaration – asking why the IDF declined to admit that it was a terror attack.
Lt. Col. Sharon Altit described the dramatic events of that day to Walla! News, noting the discrepancy between the IDF's official version and what he saw on-site.
"The company commander and operations officer called to update me and immediately the entire battalion left for the scene," Altit recounted. He is the commander of the Duchifat Brigade. "I arrived to see the three soldiers on the ground, receiving emergency medical treatment."
"All the soldiers were manning roadblocks and searching for the perpetrators' vehicles," he continued. "In a short time we were able to get our hands on a video documenting the event and after a few hours we found an abandoned vehicle and identified the driver who had fled from it."
"This is a difficult event, but I have to say that it is different from harming civilians," he noted. "We are taught that our activities are dangerous by nature and that soldiers and officers can be harmed [in the process]."
But despite that admission, Atlit has been troubled by the way the IDF handled the incident. Military reporters were briefed that the attack was an accident – in utter contradiction to evidence on the ground.
"It was then published on behalf of a senior military official, anonymously, that the incident was a mere hit-and-run," he said. "I saw the headlines and I said to myself, 'this is nonsense.' You cannot say such things so soon after the event; you must take the time to process the evidence and then draw conclusions."
Altit affirmed that the IDF knew it was an attack from the beginning.
"Right from the start, we questioned the incident in the field – and the initial findings, and what my gut said all along, according to the signs, was that it was a terrorist attack," he said. "The event was closed after one of the terrorists admitted that this was what he planned to do."
After a series of arrests, the Palestinian driver turned himself in to Israeli security forces, the IDF and police announced they were treating it as a hit-and-run accident – an abrupt about-turn which triggered accusations of a cover up.
Altit does not hold a grudge, but he is not comfortable remaining silent over the issue.
Nevertheless, he said, "what's important is that the [injured] soldiers are recovering, and one of them has been returned to the regiment."
"I hope that soon also the other two soldiers will return to active duty," he added. "We are in contact with the family and offer to help with anything they need."